By Jerry Roker
for Bahamas Press
In contemplating our future in tourism, and the factors affecting it – from advances in technology to emerging markets, and from health concerns to fluctuating world economies, finding the right balance between exploration and exploitation will be the secret to our success in facing our one and only certainty: change.
Things are moving rapidly. We cannot remain content when our customers are not. They are changing. And look, it’s not just our customer that is changing. Global consolidation in all sectors, but most certainly in the hotel and lodging sectors, burdensome taxation and the implications of the here-to-stay shared economy, are but a few of the current issues affecting the way we do business.
And I think as collaborators, both business and government must equally value what is uniquely Bahamian, because if we don’t, the market will surely move to the destinations that do.
Recent surveys and results from exit surveys show that nearly 80% of baby boomers rate experiencing authentic local culture as “the most important” aspect of their decision making. People are searching to find travel products that offer deeper, more authentic experiences. Visitors want to be taken beyond the gates of their resorts to experience places and people. Sitting on a beach sipping a bahama mama is nice, but it no longer satisfies. There is more to our Bahamas and our visitors want to see it, experience it.
The truth is we know that people do come to The Bahamas for its natural resources. Sun, sand and sea are our hallmark and they sell. But when treated as a commodity, consumers will go where they can get those resources more conveniently and less expensively.
To encourage visitors, we must highlight the elements and most importantly, the people, that distinguish us from anywhere else on earth. We must, while fiercely protecting our natural environment, monetise our uniqueness and expertise and share it.
We must think beyond what we have traditionally valued, to go beyond the coast and to look inward, both literally and figuratively. We must, because the fact is, we are on a course to outgrow our real estate, prized beachfront lands are going or gone, particular on our major island, New Providence. Where will development take place next? What will be the next frontier of the Bahamian experience?
There is a beauty to the life we live in The Bahamas. My home, our home, and I am proud of it and I want to share it. The warmth of our people, our tradition of hard work and our commitment to family and community, this is what makes us extraordinary and is the means by which wealth will stay where it is earned. Foreign investment is necessary and more often than not, is for our country, however, local know-how and human capital is what humanises all this concrete and investment.
We need to work together, to find the balance between exploration and exploitation, the dream of what could be with the work at hand. To demonstrate to the world’s markets that we are worthy of investment because we are unique on the planet, blessed with natural resources that go far beyond sun, sand and sea.